It goes without saying that most of us chose Mount Holyoke College as our school to attend because of its excellence in academics. We went there knowing that we would have to study extremely hard in order to graduate. I think most of us can remember doing just that.

In the Spring of 1955 a small group of Physiology majors was seated around a table in the lab. We were having an oral revue in preparation of our finals. Charlotte Haywood was conduction a Q and A session. Her first question was “Urea is the end product of what?” Total silence. I remember mumbling very quietly, “I don’t know.” Miss Haywood smiled and shouted, “AMMIONIA, Correct Phyllis, you do have an ability to reach deep within and come up the right answer.” Again there was total silence. To this day I wonder if my good grades in Physiology were only due to Miss Haywood’s inability to hear well.

Beyond that memory comes the other side of my four years there. I cherish the friendships, the parties, campus life in general and the ability to grow socially, politically and emotionally. I didn’t have many close friends but the ones I did have remained dear all through the past years.

I especially remember our Junior Prom because the young man I was dating and eventually married showed up on campus for the first time. (I often thought that my roommate started to think that Steve was a figment of my imagination.) Sure enough—he was real and we had a great weekend. We climbed Mt. Holyoke and picnicked on the banks of the Connecticut River. We didn’t miss one event!

Phyllis Gaffney


Here's the first reprint of  some Mount Holyoke Memories written almost 15 years ago about the "good ole days"
​Think back and join the conversation...don't be shy!
Remember we were taught to contribute to our communtiy,
so let's hear from you. email Gay or Wink at or and we'll take care of the rest.
Along with all of the warm, fuzzy memories I gathered during my four years at Mount Holyoke, such as the special friends, the nurturing juniors in my freshman dorm, the beautiful mountain days that I realized after freshman year didn’t have to be spent climbing mountains, were some other memories of a more painful kind. Didn’t anyone have those uncomfortable times in class where you realized your brain was made of chocolate pudding? For me, it was Miss Harrison’s chemistry class of about a hundred women in a lecture hall the size of an amphitheater. Sitting in that class three times a week freshman year, was a truly humbling experience. First of all, she would ask a question of some sort, in some strange language. Then her hand would wander over the seating chart which had a pin by each name, and whoever’s pin she pulled out was “it”. For all I know, when she said “Miss O”Keeffe” she may have merely asked if I was still breathing, which by that time I was not, but in a year of that class, I never answered a question correctly.

Sophomore year was, for me, when life’s realities really intruded. Next door to Denny Edgar and me was another sophomore whom we rarely saw, because she usually wasn’t feeling well. It took about 3 weeks for us to figure out that the stomach flu or green death doesn’t happen every morning for that length of time. Our poor, miserable neighbor soon left to get married, leaving behind a very strong message for the rest of us: avoid stomach flue.

Then came the memorable incident of senior year, where much of my energies (and sleep time) were devoted to details more suited to Nancy Drew. One day our 
Housemother at South Mandelle drew me aside and gently admonished me for forgetting to lock the sun porch/smoker door at closing time (10:00? Or 11:00 pm) on a weekend night. As HP of the dorm, I was responsible for locking all the doors and turning off the lights, alternating with wonderful friends who shared this task. In addition to locking up, we had to flash the lights over the front step 5 minutes ahead of the deadline for being in the dorm, so last minute kissers were given fair warning. The next night, after the housemother’s warning, I made very, very sure that the doors were all locked, being certain that I hadn’t suffered a senior moment the night before, but not entirely trusting my memory. The same thing began to happen frequently – the smoker/sun porch door would be found unlocked in the morning, until finally there were muddy footprints leading into the smoker from the (again) unlocked door. Until that time, I think all of us thought that maybe we had a ghost, but now were convinced that one of our dorm members was sneaking out – or that maybe someone was coming in…Finally the mystery was solved. One of our freshmen was caught coming in very early one morning both disheveled and drunk. It was a very sad ending to our ghost story and she, of course, left Mount Holyoke soon after.

So many memories bubbled up before, during and after reunion, and particularly because of the Oral History Seminar where we had to try and imagine ourselves and our feelings about ourselves and about the issues of the times as we felt then, fifty years ago. When I remember, most of my memories are the highlights, the good times, the revealtory moments in classes, but when prodded, I can also bring up some darker moments, or maybe just growing up moments…actually, I could write a book.

Pat O'Keeffe